Monday, April 12, 2010
TAMPA, FL – The Puerto Rico Islanders kick off their official 2010 competition calendar with Caribbean Football Union action Tuesday evening when they face Racing des Gonaives of Haiti in the Second Round of the Club Championship tournament. The Islanders are playing host to their group at Juan Ramon Loubriel Stadium as they play April 13, 15 and 17.
The expanded format of the tournament this year will require Puerto Rico to put forth a greater effort in their bid to qualify for one of the CFU’s three CONCACAF Champions League berths after being automatically seeded into the semifinals a year ago. The Islanders will need to win their group to reach the Final Round, where they will need to finish in the top three of the four-team group in order to make their third consecutive appearance in the confederation’s championship event.
The odds, on paper, are in Puerto Rico’s favor to advance to the Final Round given the competition and the roster they are bringing back from the 2009 season.
The opposition starts with Racing, the second-place team in their First Round group with a 1-1-1 record and an aggregate score of 3-4. The Islanders may be able to get a scouting report from fellow Puerto Rican side River Plate Ponce, who defeated Racing, 3-1, and won the group. The other club the Islanders will face is wild card Leo Victor of Suriname, the third-place finishers in its First Round group at 1-2-0 with an aggregate score of 9-9. Leo Victor scored at least three goals in two of its three games, including a thrilling 4-3 loss to T&T giant Joe Public. Leo Victor scored two late goals in that game while playing two men down due to ejections.
Leo Victor will have a tough challenge in beating Islanders goalkeeper Bill Guadette, who returns to the club after an impressive display in the tournament the past two years. Despite the loss of Cristian Arrieta to the Philadelphia Union last week, the Islanders have Scott Jones and Marco Velez continuing to lead the defensive back line while strikers Nicholas Addlery, Joshua Hansen and Kendall Jagdeosingh attack the opposition.
With the departure of Jonathan Steele from the midfield, Noah Delgado will continue to be a key focal point for the club, which will also need Sandy Gbandi to play a critical role. Other additions to the midfield include USL-1 players Chris Nurse and Osei Telesford.
In addition to being the seeded team and playing at home, Puerto Rico will also have the advantage of playing in the first and last games of the round instead of twice in three days as the other two clubs will experience. After facing Racing in the opener April 13, Puerto Rico will watch Leo Victor face the Haitian club on April 15 before facing the Suriname-based club themselves April 17.
The Final Round of the event will also be held in Puerto Rico, May 4-8.